How to Move Past College Rejection
It’s no secret that rejection hurts. Asking out your crush or not getting the job that you wanted can be painful, and getting rejected from one of your top choice schools can sting even moreso.
Though it might be difficult for you to think positively right now, you should know that, luckily, this isn’t the end of the world. Not only do you have a bright future ahead of you, but you’re also among great company—did you know that Tom Hanks, Tina Fey, Barack Obama, and Steven Spielberg were all rejected from their first choice colleges?
Still, it’s not an easy position to be in. You might be wondering what you can do right now to set yourself for success in the future. Luckily, there are many next steps you can take that will help you cope, feel better, and get ready for life after high school!
Set your sights elsewhere
While you might feel frustrated and want to give up on college entirely, this isn’t always the best option. Think about the other colleges that you may have applied to, been accepted to, or are waiting on results from. Every college has its upsides and downsides, but you should consider all the options available to you. Which one seems best?
You should also consider the context of the rejection—were you rejected during early decision or regular decision? Was this your top choice school? Was this the only school that you applied to? If you were rejected during early decision rounds, keep in mind that you still have time to apply to more schools and rethink your college application strategy if need be. Most regular decision deadlines are from January 1st to January 15th, but it depends on the school!
If you truly don’t think college is right for you, you may want to think about other options, like taking a gap year or attending a trade school. At the same time, keep in mind that one rejection does not mean you’re worthless as a person or have no future ahead of you (just like getting accepted wouldn’t have validated your entire existence, though it may feel like it).
Other action steps
Appealing the decision
If you are truly unhappy with your admissions decision, you might consider appealing. You could write a formal letter to the admissions committee explaining why you deserve to be admitted.
Take a look at an example letter here: https://www.thoughtco.com/sample-appeal-letter-788861
Keep in mind that you should have a very good reason as to why you should have been admitted (like raised SAT scores, a new accomplishment, etc)., and this letter will be best if supplemented with a letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor in your life. Also, be aware that appeal letters are very rarely successful—but if you feel like it’s worth a try, then go for it!
Taking time off
You might consider taking a gap year (or 2) and trying to apply again later.Taking a gap year can give you time to do service work, improve your resume, improve upon your character and expand your worldview. These are all attributes that could contribute positively to a college application further down the line!
Be sure to talk to your parents about your decision and use them as a resource in terms of planning. There are many different things that you could do with a gap year, in fact, the possibilities are essentially endless. It is most important that you have a plan in place in order to make the best out of your time off.
For more information on gap years and different types of programs available, take a look at these blog posts:
Just because you got a rejection letter, that doesn’t mean that it will happen again if you try to apply later as a transfer student.
Consider attending a school that you are able to go to (maybe the local community college, maybe a state school, maybe another college that you were accepted to), and work hard. Try to get the best grades that you can and do what you need to do to make yourself stand out within the community. After 2 years, if you still find that you want to attend a certain school, try applying to it again as a transfer student.
Chances of admission as a transfer will vary from school to school, but applying again as a transfer will send the message to adcomms that you work hard and don’t give up. It’s always worth a shot!
Seeking emotional support
It can be hard to cope with rejection, but there are also valuable lessons to be learned from it.
Unfortunately, this will not be the only rejection in your life—you might be turned down for a job you really want, turned down by a romantic partner, or turned down by grad schools. Learning to pick your head up in a crisis, and to keep moving and formulating new plans is extremely important—you will learn to be more adaptable, gritty, and ultimately more successful in life.
All of this being said, getting rejected is never easy, especially from something that you really wanted, and it’s OK to ask for help. You might be feeling worthless, down, or directionless. It’s important to voice these feelings but also to combat them. For emotional support, you can try talking to your parents, your therapist (if you have one available to you), and other trusted adults, mentors, or friends.
For support in formulating a new plan, try talking to your mentors—these might be people you look up to, favorite teachers, or even your guidance counselor. Many people aren’t accepted to their first choice college. You might be surprised (and inspired) to hear how many of these people have had road bumps in their college searches!
Dealing with rejection isn’t easy, but luckily, there’s more you can do than just sit around and feel sad. Take this time to make a new plan for yourself. Do you want to attend another college? Take a gap year? Try to transfer in in two years?It’s also important to take note of your emotions. Notice how you are feeling and ask for help when you need it. There are important lessons to be learned from this new challenge!
In the end, don’t feel too bad. Though it hurts right now, getting rejected won’t stop you from doing great things in your life—getting rejected from Swarthmore certainly didn’t stop Barack Obama from becoming President of the United States!
For more advice on college admissions season, check out these blog posts:
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